Problems With a Flushing Toilet

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The toilet undoubtedly is one of the most important aspects of your home, which can make conditions dire when it is not flushing properly. Toilets are not terribly complex machines, and any flushing problems typically can be diagnosed and fixed with either a plunger or a quick trip to the hardware store.

Partial Flushing

A weak flapper could be the reason that your toilet flushes only partially, taking down only about half the water in the bowl. The flapper is a rubber device that "flaps" in the toilet tank and covers the flush valve between the tank and bowl, which is where all the water drains when the toilet is flushed. The flapper should stay open until about 80 per cent of the water has drained from the tank, then fall back down again. The flapper, however, may lower early if it is waterlogged, which prevents the rest of the water from escaping and keeps the toilet from flushing completely. A new flapper can be purchased from any hardware store and simply swapped out to fix the problem.

Phantom Filling

Phantom filling is when the tank is being filled with water constantly, even when the tank isn't being flushed. You will hear the characteristic sound of a "running toilet." This condition will make your flushes weak as well as waste water. Phantom filling can result from a cracked flapper that lets water escape into the bowl instead of sealing it off. Replace the flapper to remedy the issue. This condition also can be caused by an improperly adjusted float, which causes water to run continuously down the toilet's overflow tube and fails to shut off the fill valve. Adjust the float so that it rises to the proper level and shuts off the fill valve.


A clog is one of the more common problems with toilets. Clogs can occur if too much toilet paper is used or if something foreign, like a comb or garbage, is flushed down the drain. The sure sign of a clog is when a toilet simply will not flush; when the flush lever is pulled. Water will fill the bowl and sometimes spill out onto the floor. The solution is to use a plunger to suck out whatever may be causing the clog. Sometimes the clog will be remedied right away, but other times use of a toilet snake or the services of a professional plumber will be required.

Slow Filling

Slow filling is when the toilet tank takes much longer to fill than normal, which means having to wait a long time in between flushes. The fill valve regulates the water coming into the toilet tank. It uses a floating device that, when it reaches a certain height, closes off the valve so water doesn't overflow. The fill valve may have internal clogs and need to be replaced if the tank takes too long to fill up. Fill valves can be purchased from hardware stores and easily swapped out. Just remember to turn the water off beforehand or else it will come gushing out when you remove the broken valve.